How different are the ingredients of ibuprofen and acetaminophen

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The shelves in the pharmacies are full of a wide variety of preparations. From cheap to super expensive. Do we really need a different remedy for each pain? We asked a pharmacist.

Wolfgang Becker-Brüser is a doctor, pharmacist and editor of the independent specialist journal Arznei-Telegramm. He keeps an eye on the world of medicines and explains it. For headaches, pharmacists can consider the three most important over-the-counter, over-the-counter pain relievers:

  • Acetylsalicylic acid
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen

They are the only relevant active ingredients for headache or similar pain. It is important for the intake whether there is a previous illness. Paracetamol should not be taken if the liver is damaged. If there are problems in the gastrointestinal tract, acetylsalicylic acid is not the right active ingredient - paracetamol is then more suitable.

"What it says on the packaging really doesn't matter. With toothache pills, headache pills or menstrual pain pills: they all contain the same thing."
Wolfgang Becker-Brüser is a doctor, pharmacist and publisher

Wolfgang Becker-Brüser says consumers are being misled. Because toothache tablets, headache tablets or menstrual pain tablets contain the same active ingredients. Every manufacturer wants to assert itself in the market of 250 to 300 different non-prescription pain relievers. In order to distinguish the means, the pharmacist generally recommends paying attention to the active ingredient and not what is written on the packaging.

"There are hundreds of active ingredients, but only three really relevant ingredients for headaches, menstrual pain or whatever: acetylsalicylic acid, paracetamol and ibuprofen."
Wolfgang Becker-Brüser is a doctor, pharmacist and publisher

There are tons of suppliers of generics, i.e. copies of branded drugs, explains Wolfgang Becker-Brüser. But they really contain identical preparations - and are usually much cheaper. "The more advertising for a drug, the more expensive it is as a rule"

Drugs such as Wick Daymed, Doregrippin, Geloprosed or Aspirin Complex are superfluous drugs, says Wolfgang Becker Brüser. They contain many different ingredients. The pharmacist thinks single-substance preparations make more sense. They work where they should. In the nose, for example. A nasal spray works within minutes. The same active ingredient in tablets makes no sense. "You wait hours until something happens," says Wolfgang Becker-Brüser.